A free electronic payment system, a new user-friendly website and streamlined application processes are among many customer-friendly reforms and initiatives outlined today during City Council Budget hearings on the Department of Revenue.

Revenue Commissioner Frank Breslin today presented to council members an overview of the Department’s progress during the past year, and plans for further improvements.  During the current fiscal year, FY2017, the Department of Revenue made things easier for customers by:

  • Offering free eCheck, the fastest, easiest way to pay.
  • Implementing a new kiosk system in the MSB concourse to make visiting Revenue in person easier.
  • Launching a new website (www.phila.gov/revenue) in partnership with the Office of Data and Digital Transformation, that is easier to understand and navigate, and is available in dozens of languages.
  • Moving towards providing receipts with more information about how payments are applied.

Commissioner Breslin also spelled out improvements for customers who are struggling to meet their tax obligations, including:

  • Preparations for the summer launch of TAP, the new affordable rates program for low-income water customers.
  • A new payment plan for delinquent businesses, with terms selected by the taxpayer to make it easier to get back on track.
  • Streamlined application processes, improving the ease of access for business partners.
  • A successful outreach campaign for the Earned Income Tax Credit and supporting free tax preparation for more than 20,000 Philadelphians.
  • New business processes and timelines to facilitate the acquisition of delinquent land by the Land Bank.

In addition, the Revenue Commissioner outlined ways the Department is getting smarter and tougher when it comes to identifying and collecting delinquent debts:

  • The launch of a data “warehouse” that puts information from Revenue, other city agencies, the Commonwealth of PA, and the IRS into one place. So far the Department has generated $19.8 million on collections with new initiatives like using Federal Tax Returns to identify Philadelphia residents not registered for the School Income Tax, which has brought in $4 million for the School District.
  • Closing a loophole in the Realty Transfer Tax, that had allowed certain large, complex transactions to avoid the tax.
  • Reducing the number of delinquent Real Estate accounts and amount due to the lowest point in years, using an array of tactics, including sequestration, behavioral economics to improve the effectiveness of Revenue letters to customers, increasing the frequency of billing and increasing use of collection agencies.

“Challenges remain,” Commissioner Breslin told Council members, “but the Department of Revenue has made progress by nearly every measure – more dollars collected on time, more people enrolled in assistance programs and payment agreements, and fewer delinquent accounts. With your support of our budget request, we are on track to continue these trends in FY 2018.”

Photo Credit: Photo by M. Fischetti for VISIT PHILADELPHIA